Ancient knowledge for today’s life.
Every time I have a terrible day, I think of the life of the Stoics.
- Marcus Aurelius lost his father young, was adopted by an emperor and was burdened with the responsibility of running an empire. To top it all off, he was married to his half-sister.
- Epictetus was probably sold by his parents and ended up as an enslaved person, his master punished him by beating his leg until he became lame, and he ended up being free after going through many hardships.
- Finally, Seneca was banished, and Agrippina managed to return him to the empire to take charge of her son’s education. The bad thing is that her son was Nero and ended up killing his mother, Agrippina, and sending soldiers to the house of his former teacher, Seneca, to ask him to take his own life.
The life of the Stoics was not easy, and despite everything, or thanks to it, they left us great life lessons to face adversity and live a little better. That is why today I want to share with you three lessons from the great Seneca.
These lessons always comfort and guide me, and I hope they do the same for you.
1. On wealth
“You ask me what the measure of riches is? First, to have what is necessary, then, what is sufficient.” — Seneca.
A person of many appetites is a person of many miseries because he does not satisfy his hunger with what he conquers. His nonconformism leads him to live hunting, to exist in pursuit of the next prey. But no trophy will benefit his soul.
Nonconformism is just another form of immaturity, the false belief in the endurance of the ephemeral self destined for death.
Measure your appetites; be content with little and rejoice with less. If there is enough, share it with the less fortunate. Only then will joy stay in your house.
2. On your calling
“Let not the impulse of your soul decay and grow cold. Sustain and affirm it so that what is an impulse of your spirit may become a habit.” — Seneca.
Do not silence the voice of your soul, or you will know hell. He who denies his nature will hate his life. Your calling manifests itself in the form of impulse, which will be a sign and guide. Still, it will need continuous action, deliberate practice, and constant improvement to develop the gift that will allow you to express your true nature in the physical world.
Like a newborn baby who needs to learn to speak to communicate with the environment, you will need to master your gifts to transmit the voice of your soul.
This is what the painter does when he paints, the seamstress when she sews, and the pianist when he plays his piano: they communicate what the nature of their soul wants to express through their art.
Remember Epicurus’ wise quote, “If you live by the dictates of nature, you will never be poor; but if you live by the dictates of opinion, you will never be rich.” So be true to your instinct, respect your nature and ignore what people will say.
3. On mistakes and second chances
“There is no one who has possessed good judgment before senselessness: evil possesses us all in advance: to learn virtue is to unlearn vices.” — Seneca.
No one gets it right the first time. You will learn everything in life by trial and error. Fire burns, but you must feel it to know to stay away from it.
It’s the same with bad habits and bad decisions: you must get burned before learning. And it is there, after stumbling, when you have to get up and walk again. Because no one is born knowing, and only by making mistakes will you learn to live.
The path of second chances can only reach a just and virtuous life; there is no other way. First, you make a mistake, and then you try again. That’s how you live. That’s how you get better.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t torture yourself for the sins of yesterday; if today you feel ashamed and regretful, it is because you learned from what you did. And you don’t have to live with that burden.
The best thing you can do is to do things right in honor of the number of times you did them wrong until you learned the right way.
Listen to Seneca and allow yourself a second or even a third chance (to be happy).
A virtual hug